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Presidential Election: Atiku,PDP Kick-Start Case Against Buhari …Tender 5197 Exhibits From Niger, Yobe …INEC, Buhari, APC Fail To Stop Proceedings

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The Presidential Election Tribunal, yesterday, opened hearing in the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, challenging President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory with 883 exhibits from Niger State admitted so far.
This is coming as the 88-year old erudite Professor of Law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Ben Nwabueze, yesterday, took over as head of the legal team representing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja.
He took over from Dr Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, on a day the five-member tribunal headed by Justice Mohammed Garba, okayed for the commencement of full-blown hearing on the petition challenging President Buhari’s re-election.
Nwabueze, who was granted permission to address the tribunal on a wheelchair, said his presence was to underscore the importance of the case to the constitutional development of the nation.
“I have chosen to appear on this auspicious day of commencement of hearing on this epoch day.
“I had to travel to attend, notwithstanding my age and attendant health challenges. This is to underscore the importance of this case to the constitutional development of this country, a matter that I have been passionate about all these years”.
Thereafter, Nwabueze prayed to be excused by the tribunal, but not after he dropped with the Registry, a copy of the speech he said he would have delivered at the inaugural sitting of the tribunal that held on May 15.
“I wish your lordships more grace and Nigeria well,” he added.
Shortly after he handed over a copy of his speech to the Registry, Nwabueze left the tribunal, even as Uzoukwu took over and announced that the petitioners would commence with presenting witnesses and evidence with respect to the conduct of the presidential election in Niger State.
Meanwhile, before the petitioners could kick-start the hearing process, all the respondents – the Independent National Electoral Commission, President Muhammadu Buhari, and the All Progressives Congress (APC), opposed the continuation of the proceeding.
Counsel to Buhari, Chief Mike Igbokwe, SAN, decried that despite the order of the tribunal that all documents that would be tendered from the Bar, should be filed and exchanged by parties, the petitioners only served him two schedules of documents to be tendered with respect to Jigawa and Niger states, before the proceeding commenced.
“I urge this court to suspend the trial until they comply with an order of the court made yesterday by consent of parties that schedule of documents to be tendered must be filed and exchanged between parties”, Igbokwe added.
Similarly, counsel to INEC, Yunus Usman, SAN, and that of APC, Yakubu Mekyau, SAN, accused the petitioners of attempting to ambush them.
All the respondents said they were not ready to go on with the hearing.
Nevertheless, Uzoukwu urged the court to ignore the objections he said was deliberately aimed to frustrate the hearing.
“Seriously, our time of presenting our petition is being compromised by the respondents, bearing in mind that this petition has a timeline that is fast approaching”, he added.
The petitioners’ counsel noted that all the documents to be tendered were originally listed in the petition, saying there was, therefore, nothing the respondents could be surprised about.
Uzoukwu expressed surprise over the observation made by the respondents’ lawyers.
He said his team “should be commended and not condemned”, as he could not have served the schedule earlier than Thursday morning, because the registry of the court only completed the processing earlier on Thursday.
He said the schedule to be used for Niger and Jigawa states was already with the respondents.
But ruling, the five-man bench led by Justice Mohammed Garba, dismissed the respondents’ request, saying that the agreements reached between the parties at the pre-hearing session concluded earlier on Wednesday, had stipulated that trial would commence on Thursday.
Justice Garba, who delivered the ruling of the tribunal, added that the agreement reached which was adopted at the tribunal’s directive on Wednesday did also not make the service of the schedule of documents a condition-precedent for the commencement of trial.
He added that the respondents could also not validly claimed to have been ambushed by the alleged late filing of the schedule since the documents listed in it had been referenced in the petition filed and served on the respondents months ago.
The tribunal has admitted the Form EC8C for Agaie Local Government Area of Niger State tendered by the petitioners as Exhibit P1.
The petitioners’ lead counsel later tendered Forms EC8A and EC8B (series of polling unit and ward results) in respect of the said local government area.
It would be recalled PDP and Atiku had in their joint petition, maintained that data they independently secured from INEC’s back-end server, revealed that they defeated Muhammadu Buhari at the poll with over 1.6million votes.
They alleged that INEC had at various stages of the presidential election, unlawfully allocated votes to Buhari, saying they would adduce oral and documentary evidence to show that result of the election as announced by the electoral body, did not represent the lawful valid votes cast.
They alleged that in some states, INEC deducted lawful votes that accrued to PDP and Atiku, in its bid to ensure that Buhari was returned back to the office.
The petitioners said they would call evidence of statisticians, forensic examiners and finger-print experts at the hearing of the petition to establish that the scores credited to Buhari were not the product of actual votes validly cast at the polling units.
The petitioners said they intended to call 400 witnesses, “or as many as possible within the prescribed time,” to prove their case.
However, all the respondents had since filed processes to challenge the competence of the petition, which they said, should be dismissed.
The tribunal had given the petitioners 10 days to present their case, while the respondents would take six days each to enter their defence.

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Rivers State Needs College of Education-Don

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Following the upgrade of the former College of Education to a university, a university teacher has sued for the establishment of a new college of education to replace the old one.
The plea was made by a lecturer in the political Science Department of the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Dr. Iwarimie Uranta.
Uranta who made his views known in an interview with The Tide pointed out that College of Education if established will address the middle manpower in the educational system of the state.
For now, Uranta said “there is a vacuum,” National Certificate of Education (NCE) will help bridge the gap of middle manpower in the teaching profession.”
He continued”, it will boost the teaching of core courses, because NCE teachers are trained as teachers in those courses”.
The university don pointed out that currently there is a limited number of people who wants to do education. It reduce pressure on the universities and reduce social vices by the youths, Uranta stressed.
Besides, he said the current reforms in the educational system will benefit as many private schools will have manpower to recruit instead of engaging quacks in their schools.
In a similar vein, Head of Educational Psychology/ Guidance and Counselling in the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Dr. Sunday Ordu has commended the State Government
for the policy to sanitise privately schools in the state.
“A lot of private schools don not have professional teachers so the policy is in the right direction.
It will improve manpower faculties to enhance educational growth. The environment must be conducive” he added.

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RSG Implements TSA To Block Revenue Leakages, Soon …Tasks State Internal Revenue Service To Grow Monthly IGR To N10bn …Seeks Informal Sector’s Support Through Payment Of Prescribed Taxes

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced that the state government would soon commence the operation of Treasury Single Account (TSA) to boost its revenue base.
Wike also charged the Rivers Internal Revenue Service (RIRS) to grow the state’s monthly Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to N10billion.
He spoke during the flag off of Informal Sector Tax Drive with vehicles donated by Access Bank Limited at the Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The governor said: “We will initiate the Treasury Single Account to block revenue leakages. I assure that very soon, the Treasury Single Account will become operational.
“The Treasury Single Account will be implemented to checkmate what is presently going on. It is not good to have several accounts which lead to unnecessary leakages.
“Our revenue base fluctuates. The board has been directed to expedite action for the state to hit N10billion Internally Generated Revenue every month.”
Wike explained that the Treasury Single Account will be diligently implemented in the interest of Rivers State, and restated that his allegiance was to Rivers people who voted him, because he was not sponsored by any group.
He urged the informal sector to support the Rivers State Government by paying their taxes as prescribed by the Rivers Internal Revenue Service (RIRS).
“The drive for informal sector tax is key. I believe it will boost our revenue base, and we need it”, he said, and thanked Access Bank Limited for supporting the revenue drive of the state with the donation of 10 buses.
In his remarks, the Chairman of Rivers State Internal Revenue Service (RIRS), Mr Adoage Norte said that the flag off of the informal sector tax drive would ensure that informal sector entrepreneurs pay their taxes.
He said that at present, the informal sector has not been paying taxes, explaining that the flag off would unlock the tax potentials of the informal sector.
Norte lauded Access Bank Plc for supporting the informal tax drive of the Rivers State Internal Revenue Service with the donation of 10 buses, pointing out that the buses would be used across the state.
He added that the service was also in dire need of branded kiosks for point of sales transactions, and suggested the operation of Treasury Single Account to optimize revenue generation in the state.
Representative of the Managing Director of Access Bank Plc, Mr David Tinad, thanked the Rivers State Government for the opportunity to partner on revenue generation.
He assured the Rivers State Government that Access Bank Plc would continue to support efforts by the state government to improve its revenue base.

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Fake Policemen Disrupted Polls In Bayelsa, Kogi, IGP Admits …Says We’re Aware People Planned To Wear Police Uniforms …As Senate Moves To Okay E-Voting For Future Polls

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The Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, has said that ‘policemen’ alleged to have disrupted Saturday’s governorship polls in parts of Bayelsa and Kogi States were “fake” and not the personnel officially deployed for election duties.
Adamu stated that all security personnel, who worked during the polls had “special identification tags”, adding that anyone without the tags was on illegal duty.
He spoke with State House correspondents after President Muhammadu Buhari and security chiefs held a meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday.
However, he said an investigation was ongoing, while 11 arrests had been made.
Similarly, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mohammed Adamu, yesterday, said that the police were aware of the plan by politicians to sew police uniforms for their supporters during the Kogi and Bayelsa States governorship elections.
The IGP also said that ‘policemen’ alleged to have disrupted the November 16 governorship polls in parts of the two states were “fake” and not the personnel officially deployed for election duties.
Briefing State House correspondents after a security meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja, Adamu stated that all security personnel, who worked during the elections were given “special identification tags”, adding that anyone without the tags was on illegal duty.
The IGP, who said that the security situation in the country was stable, however, said investigation was ongoing to unravel the identities of those that caused violence during the elections, adding that 11 arrests had been made.
On the alleged police extortion of motorists in South East by police officers at checkpoints, he advised that people should always copy the names of such police officers and report them to the police hierarchy in the area.
Meanwhile, the Senate has begun a fresh electoral reform which has mandated the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to adopt the much-awaited electronic voting method for future polls.
The lawmakers also compelled INEC to operate an electronic database into which all results in an election should be transmitted.
A bill to amend the Electoral Act 2010 through which the reform would be achieved has already been published in an official gazette and debate on its general principles may begin on the floor of the Senate during the week.
A copy of the bill, made available to newsmen, also stipulates that data of accredited voters must be transmitted to the central data base upon the conclusion of the accreditation of voters which would be done through the use of the card reader.
“At the end of accreditation of voters, the presiding officer shall transmit the voter accreditation data by secure mobile electronic communication to the central database of the commission kept at the national headquarters of the commission.
“Any presiding officer who contravenes this provision shall be liable, on conviction, to a minimum of imprisonment of at least five years without an option of fine,” the bill also stipulates.
It prevents INEC from shutting down the central data base until all petitions arising from the elections are determined by a tribunal or court.
“In respect of data of accreditation of voters, including polling unit results, for an election, the commission shall not shut down its central database kept at its national headquarters until all election petitions and appeals pertaining to that election are heard and determined by a tribunal or court.”
On the specific provisions for the adoption of the central database, the bill, which is being sponsored by the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege and Abubakar Kyari (APC, Borno State), seeks amendment of Section 65 of the Electoral Act 2010 by introducing a “National Electronic Register of Election Results.”
It states: “The commission shall compile, maintain and update on a continuous basis, a register of election results to be known as the National Electronic Register of Election Results which shall be a database of election results from each polling unit, including collated results of each election conducted by the commission.
“National Electronic Register of Election Results shall be kept by the commission at its national headquarters and any person or political party may obtain from the commission, on payment of reasonable fees as may be determined by the commission, a certified true copy of any election result kept in the National Electronic Register of Election Results for the federation, a state, local government, area council, ward or polling unit, as the case may be and the certified true copy may be in printed or electronic format.”
On electronic voting, the Electoral Reform Bill seeks amendment of Section 52 (2) of the 2010 Electoral Act and introduced a new provision stating that “the commission may adopt electronic voting or any other method of voting in any election it conducts as it may deem fit.”
It was learned that many lawmakers are not comfortable with the additional clause which permits INEC to use any other method it deems fit and may delete that option during the consideration of the bill.
The current law completely prohibits the use of electronic voting as it states: “The use of the electronic voting machine, for the time being, is prohibited.”
The reform bill has also slashed the nomination fees charged by political parties.
Presidential aspirants are to pay not more than N10million while governorship aspirants are to pay N5million.
Specifically, the bill states: “For the purpose of nomination of candidates for election, the total fees, charges, dues and any payment howsoever named imposed by a political party on an aspirant shall not exceed: N150,000 for a ward councillorship aspirant in the FCT; N250,000 for an area council chairmanship aspirant in the FCT; N500,000 for a House of Assembly aspirant; N1,000,000 for a House of Representatives aspirant; N2,000,000 for a senatorial aspirant; N5,000,000 for a governorship aspirant; and N10,000,000 for a presidential aspirant.”
The Bukola Saraki-led National Assembly had attempted the electoral reform but failed to get the presidential approval at the end.
The bill sought to strengthen internal democracy, reduce the cost of politics, widen political participation and the conduct of free fair and credible elections through technological innovations and an electronic database.
However, there were concerns raised over the enforceability of some of its provisions.
President Muhammadu Buhari, in refusing to sign that bill, had said: “I am declining assent to the bill principally because I am concerned that passing a new electoral bill this far into the electoral process for the 2019 general election, which commenced under the 2015 Electoral Act, could create some uncertainty about the applicable legislation to govern the process.
“Any real or apparent change to the rules this close to the election may provide an opportunity for disruption and confusion in respect of which law governs the electoral process.”

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